Category Archives: software

Making it easier for students in Further Education to get funding

With the election just behind us, we can see quite clearly that post-16 is going to be back on the agenda. Whatever happens with Brexit, we are facing a skills shortage in the UK because uncertainty has encouraged some migrants to look elsewhere for job opportunities.

Who knows what will happen to Philip Hammond’s proposals for new T-level qualifications? Indeed, at the time of writing, who knows what will happen to Hammond himself?

Bob Harrison FE champion

Bob Harrison, chair of governors at Northern College and education adviser for Toshiba Information Systems Northern Europe, said, “The new Vocational pathways to Technical qualifications will provide enormous challenges for all those involved in 14-18 education, not just for schools but also for the awarding organisations.”

Whatever happens longer term, there is likely to be an impetus to get more students to train for apprenticeships, for jobs and for university courses.

At present FE is a minefield, especially when it comes to getting funding. It can be a traumatic experience for those who are most reliant on funding, that vulnerable group of students who are already at a high risk of withdrawing from college.

At most colleges in the UK the task of applying for financial support is a complex, paper-based process. Often FE students come from non-traditional backgrounds and may be deterred by complex forms. Some will lack family support, many do not have the financial literacy skills needed to make decisions about whether they can afford to come off benefits or give up a job, while others worry about the impact on their dependants.

New software could simplify the process. CAMS software, developed by Scottish firm Inisoft, is now available to further education providers in England and Scotland.

CAMS helps FE providers to streamline their funding application and approval processes. Colleges have experienced significant cuts to their administration budgets and this is likely to get tougher as access to the European Social Fund, worth millions to UK colleges, will end when the UK leaves the EU.

The software will rationalise and manage the entire student funding application, saving time and resources for both students and college staff.

Oonagh McBride, Head of Inisoft
Oonagh McBride, Head of Inisoft

Oonagh McBride, Head of Inisoft, said: “Further Education colleges often find that they are overwhelmed by the volume of enquiries from potential students and hampered by incomplete information or applications that are likely to fail based on a mismatch between criteria and grades. This takes time for administrators and makes life very difficult for students. By streamlining the process, we can introduce certainty and a rapid conclusion to application processes, giving potential students clarity and enabling administrators to respond more promptly to applications.”

CAMS software is already being used by 80% of regional Scottish colleges, delivering real costs and efficiency saving while improving the student experience.

For further information: http://inisoft.co.uk/

Thank you, Ma’am!

HelpKidzLearn from Inclusive Technology is an award winning collection of software for people with the most severe disabilities. Not only is it a vital resource for learners in the UK, but also it is proving to be a firm favourite in the United States and 148 other countries. Now its success has been crowned by the Queen. To mark her 90th birthday she has given Inclusive Technology the most prestigious International Trade award in the UK – the Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2016.

Martin Littler, Chairman and CEO of Inclusive Technology, has been a pioneer in the field of technology for children and adults with severe learning disabilities (SLD), profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) or those without speech who need alternative or augmentative communication (AAC) who perhaps can only make a single voluntary movement or sound.

hklLast month the HelpKidzLearn development team received the 2016 Education Resource Award for Special Educational Needs including ICT for their work on harnessing Eye Gaze  technology to meet the needs of learners with complex needs. Eye-gaze technology is the closest equivalent we have to thought-operated hardware so far, and is already surprisingly affordable. Inclusive Technology’s myGaze costs just £875 and is having an impact not just on children but on adults as well.

Just looking around a computer screen moves the mouse pointer and gazing at an area performs a click with no physical effort needed. Support workers can now use eye gaze to identify where the user is looking when different images, prompts or questions are asked, giving an insight into what users can see, what they are interested in looking at and some indication of their understanding skills.

Sean Carroll, IT/Assistive Technology Consultant at Sensation Communication and Technology Solutions, describes its impact: ‘James has sat in his chair since he was 19 with very little to occupy himself with, and even when at school I don’t think his independent access skills were attended to very much at all.’ Now with an Eye Gaze tracker James is able to access some online games and his parents are delighted to discover evidence of new skills.’

Yesterday Martin was on TV with his colleague Sandra Thistlethwaite who is a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, and Dan Woodman, deputy head teacher at Richard Cloudsley School in London. They were talking to the presenter of London Live about the impact of the technology on children’s lives. ms and xx

‘Children need to play, have fun and communicate,’ said Martin, ‘but this technology also lets children who are non-verbal use on-screen symbols and words to build language, create messages and take part in conversations with families and friends. The award is a huge pat on the back for our team of developers, teachers and therapists.’

Martin and his managing director Sukhjit Gill will collect the award at a Buckingham Palace reception on July 14, 2016.

 

 

Thank you, Barclays!

ATEC is coming! Barclays are sponsoring an Assistive Technology Exhibition and Conference (ATEC) to be held at Jury’s Inn in Oxford on May 17th.

It is fast becoming a Go-To event for those who assess and support people with disabilities in universities and the workplace and more importantly for people who need assistive technology for work, for study or to communicate with others.

TDebra Charles smallhere is loads of good stuff for people with dyslexia: Debra Charles is doing one of the keynotes. She is
CEO of her own smartcard technology firm Novacroft, the company behind the Oyster Card, and believes that her success is because of, and not despite, her dyslexia.

Find out about the latest versions of Claro and TextHelp, mind mapping from Matchware and Inspiration, The C-Pen Reader which reads text from print books and Notetalker that lets users capture information from a lecture or a meeting.

global autocorrect smallAs someone who uses Autocorrect on Word and types entirely in abbreviations, I am keen to see Global AutoCorrect which works with all programs from presentation software to emails, the web and social media. It frustrates me when I have to type every letter on Facebook. Maybe now I won’t have to.

There is some whizzy new technology. David Finch from Star College in Gloucestershire will be talking about a project called Ember. The idea is to reduce employer or mentor support and help trainees to work more effectively and more independently.

There is also an assistive robotic arm called JacoTM developed by The ACCESS Research & Development Department at Hereward College with charitable funding from Npower.

I am also keen to hear Abi James of University of Southampton and BDA New Technologies Committee. I often wonder why some people embrace technology while others reject it from the off. I used to think it was all about training and support in the early days, now I am not so sure. Abi is researching this area and will be leading a discussion on the role of professionals to improve the take up of technology.

Book your place now at http://www.ateconference.com/
Tuesday, 17th May 2016 Jury’s Inn 30 Godstow Road, OX2 8PG

Social networking and gaming dominate young lives

ICT and Me was a research project published in September 2015, it was conducted by The National Children’s Bureau Northern Ireland (NCB NI), with the support of the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. It was a longitudinal survey in Northern Ireland, studying the link between young people’s levels of access to, and usage of, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and how this subsequently impacts on GCSE attainment.

Read the full report here http://www.ncb.org.uk/media/1229655/ict_me.pdf

ch in NI

 

Key finding 1

Access to a computer/laptop at home is not an issue for the vast majority of young people with at least 95% reporting having access. However, despite the fact that only 5% report not having access to a computer or laptop, when scaled up across the top 40 schools in terms of deprivation, c.1,000 young people are potentially without access, placing them at significant disadvantage.

Key finding 2

Young people spend a significant amount of time online each day with one-third of young people spending four hours or more online in Year 1 rising to 40% in Year 2 of the study.

“I’m constantly on it to be fair.” (Pupil)

“You just always have to have a check to see what people are up to.” (Pupil)

“I always be checking my phone, even when I wake up in the middle of the night.” (Pupil)

Key finding 3

Social networking and gaming were identified by parents/carers and teachers as activities that could most negatively impact on young people’s attainment. Findings from this research confirm a link between extent of gaming and GCSE attainment, e.g. only two-fifths (41%) of pupils who reported using a portable games player a couple of times a day achieved 5A*-C GCSE grades compared to over three-quarters (77%) of those who reported rarely using one. No relationship was observed in terms of social networking.

Key finding 4

School staff were particularly concerned about extent of gaming, reporting a number of issues relating to attendance, punctuality and motivation. Particular issues identified in relation to male pupils with gaming addiction noted in some instances.

Just over one quarter of pupils stated that they play online games alone (27%) or with others (29%) on a daily basis. Further analysis of the survey revealed that males were more prolific users of a computer/laptop for playing games (either alone or with other others) with 42% of males playing games alone every day compared to just 12% of females. This finding is comparable with the literature which shows males are more likely to play online games than girls (Kids Life and Times survey, 2009; Mascheroni and Olafsson, 2013).

Key finding 5

Almost three-quarters (72%) of the young people surveyed as part of this study stated that they feel safe online. This corresponds to findings published by YouthNet (2011) which found over 75% of young people thought that the internet was a safe place. Parents/carers who participated in the focus groups/interviews appeared much more concerned for their child(ren)’s safety whilst online than the young people themselves –

Key finding 6

Social networking can negatively impact on young people’s concentration, distract them from their homework and can be a platform for bullying behaviour. Indeed many of the young people noted that Facebook, in particular, distracted them from their school work.

A study published by YouthNet (2011) suggested that it is common for young people to multi-task, with 90% likely to use different technologies at the same time.

“Definitely people would be texting and doing their homework at the same time or eating or watching TV whilst on Facebook at the same time.” (Pupil)

“If someone messages you on Facebook, then you go on your newsfeed and you end up spending half an hour on it looking at funny photos and videos and before you know it, it’s bedtime.” (Pupil)

Life changing technology

Technology used in the right way at the right time can change lives. it helps people to pass exams and get jobs. it also gives them back their self-respect and independence as this story shows.

Pete Gustin 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taken from All channels open: Inside The Inclusive Radio Revolution first published in Access magazine April 2015

http://www.accessmagazine.co.uk/all-channels-open-inside-the-inclusive-radio-revolution/

 

Groupcall – a lot of texts, a lot of help

I recently spent an afternoon with a group of teachers at The Thinktank in the heart of Birmingham learning about the latest advances in Groupcall technology. The teachers were from primary and secondary and were there to find out about Groupcall Messenger 5, the latest version of the Parental Contact system that reads pupil and attendance information live and in real time from the school’s Management Information System.

gc1Groupcall is used by more than 5,000 schools.  It is inextricably linked with Sir Bob Geldof, one of the co-founders, and was set up with the aim of improving communication between schools and parents. I knew that but during the afternoon, courtesy of Steve Baines, International Business Development Manager, I learnt a whole lot more.

Here are ten things you may not know:

  1. Every single second 193,000 texts are whizzing round the world
  2. Messenger lets schools send text, voice or email messages to parents’ mobile phones or landlines. In Scotland they use a lot of voice messaging, and believe voice gets a better response. With Messenger schools can record a voice or use an automated text to voice facility
  3. A text can have a maximum of 160 characters. This is the default limit and is based on the notion that a text is supposed to contain roughly the same amount of information you would fit on a postcard. Longer messages can, of course, be sent but increase costs accordingly
  4. Messenger 5 features e-cards so schools can create certificates which are sent via email and can be printed out. There are templates for Merit Awards, Thank Yous and Well Dones but staff can make their own if they have a basic knowledge of HTML
  5. Messenger lets schools translate messages into 64 languages. These are the Google Translate alpha languages. Of course, you’ll be flummoxed if they send the reply in the home language
  6. On average once you press Send it takes 13 seconds for the message to reach a parent’s phone
  7. The History section of Messenger 5 shows who has received the text. This can be useful if parents claim hey have not see a text or email
  8. Messenger 5 will let parents send notification of a child’ absence via text so if a child has been sick all night, parents can send a text instead of hanging on and trying to send a message by phone in the 830 to 9 o’clock slot
  9. Xpressions is a FREE app for parents that will work on Android, iPads, iPhone or other smartphones. Imagine a school trip. A teacher can send a text message to parents direct from a smart phone instead of notifying the school and getting them to relay a message. This makes communication more immediate
  10. OFSTED is very keen on engaging parents and Xpressions is a fine example of push technology that will integrate with other systems such as Show My Homework, FasTrack

 

 

 

Young entrepreneur saves young people from exam stress

Schools are like conveyor belts. Children go in at the age of 3 or 4 and come out at 16 or 18 having been weighed, measured and processed. As they get near the end of the line, many start to panic and thrash about as they worry what to do when they fall off the end.

Every year the examination season seems to start earlier and YoungMinds Parents’ Helpline receive calls from thousands of parents distressed by the exam pressures facing their children. National Revision Week started today – 20th April and already stress levels are mounting.

Gojimo, producers of a free exam app, surveyed over 500 students found that nearly a third (31.5 per cent) were already at level 5 which is ‘Terrified and freaking out.’ Despite exam terrors, many do not start their revision until the last minute. They know they should start 8 weeks before the due date but many leave it till just 5 weeks before. Even worse, 71.3 per cent of students claimed they get little or no support from their schools, although many teachers would claim that they provide advice and guidance but that the students do not listen.

George Burgess3Now there is a handy FREE revision app created by George Burgess who founded Gojima in 2009 in his last year of school. ‘Back then, I was a 17-year-old student working from my bedroom. I had one very basic app, helping students revise for their Geography GCSE exam.’

George was caught working on his new business in class and expected to be in trouble but ‘Instead Mr. Williams was fascinated by the whole project and asked how he might help or get involved. It struck me immediately that having a teacher write content would make it more reliable, and a lot more credible. I asked if he would be willing to write a bunch of Geography GCSE quizzes. He agreed. I had my first author.’

Obviously, George was just the sort of pupil who would have stayed calm under exam pressure and these days all candidates can benefit from his skills because Gojimo is now the UK’s leading exam preparation app with free assessment content for GCSEs and A-Levels.

Award winning software from Sonocent proves to be a great conference tool

Naace is the association for everyone who cares about ICT, whether they are teachers, researchers or technology companies so it was entirely appropriate to see Sonocent Audio Notetaker being used in the audience.

merlin's notes with ano2

I sat next to journalist Merlin John whose site is essential reading for anyone with a passion for technology and how it is used in our schools and colleges.  He was taking notes on a talk called ‘You have Mobile Devices- Now What?’- given by Darryl LaGace, Executive Vice President of Global Business Development at Lightspeed Systems and as I glanced across I couldn’t help noticing that Merlin was using Audio Notetaker.

merlin‘The microphone on my laptop is good enough to pick up the sound in a conference setting like this,’ said Merlin. ‘I like to make rough notes and then get the exact quote from Audio Notetaker. It is so easy to home in and find the part you want.’

Merlin recently published my article about Audio Notetaker’s success at the BETT awards and their tie-in with Dragon Naturally Speaking. It is so nice to know that he is now using it as a tool to help him in his daily work. He commented on Twitter: ‘AudioNotetaker use it a lot. My favourite for transcription’.

The Ed Show Cometh

The Education Show is coming very shortly (20-22 March) and I have to say it has improved immeasurably over the years. Although it is on my doorstep at the NEC in Birmingham it used to be my least favourite show.  I felt it was very unfocused offering everything form sink plugs to robust crayons to school visits and the latest high tehc offerings from computer manufacturers. It is now a lot more fun.

Things I have loved in recent years have included seeing the tallest man in the world folding himself up to get in a lift, seeing Peter André lecturing a group of head teachers about why ‘Education is Very Important’ and seeing a man demonstrating the delights of wok cookery. What with the flashing chopper, hissing oil and sizzle of vegetables it must have given school bursars and staff health and safety reps much to think about.

darawebThis year the Ed Show has gone all cerebral on us. Not the Fonz or a footballer but instead Professor Brian Cox on Thursday. Presumably he will be talking about Life the Universe and Everything and How Things Can Only Get Better. And indeed they will. Because on Friday we have the lovely Dara Ó Briain discussing the importance of Maths & Science.

I have lined up nine seminars I want to cover including Dyscalculia Strategies and Solutions, Introducing Enterprise to Children through Play and Working with Children Who Have an Acquired Brain Injury.

I notice that this year there are 33 exhibitors for science but only 6 for food.  Sadly, the man with the wok has had his day.

All this and Jo Brand too

The BETT awards are almost upon us and I can nearly get into my posh frock to join the glitterati at a new venue, the Brewery at the Barbican. This year we are in for a real treat as the awards will be announced by Jo Brand. Even if your company doesn’t win, you are assured of a good night out.jo2I have been looking down the list of finalists seeing who I would like to see win in some of the key categories. This is a purely subjective approach. I am not going to support anything which deals with assessment in any form as I now believe that this is just another way to cosh teachers, parents and children into submission and give them an inferiority complex.

There are many shortlisted products that I know and love. I am running two sessions on Audio Notetaker for dyslexia learners on the Sonocent stand C470 on Thursday at 1.30 and Friday at 2pm and they are on the list for the ICT Tools for Learning and Teaching section. I am of course familiar with all the products in the special needs category and I am delighted to see other old friends such as 2Simple, Twig’s TigTag, TextHelp and the Yes Programme.

But there are many products which I am less familiar with. Here is my top ten to look out for:
1. For early years one good choice would be Rising Stars Switched on ICT, a step by step approach to get young children using ICT in meaningful ways. I like Rising Stars and have written about some of their other products especially their e books.
2. I like the look of TTS Group’s Mini Mobile Phones: ‘Children will delight in developing their language using this set of 6 realistic mobile phones. Colour co-ordinated buttons make for easy use.’ This will at least stop children using their parents’ boring old iPhones. They have also been shortlisted for:
3. The NEW Ultimate Timer, a rechargeable stopwatch with a simple to use, lapsed time function. Anything which saves looking for batteries will be welcome in the classroom.
4. For primary I am going to opt for 3P Learning Reading Eggs a library with over 1,500 eBooks, for specific year groups, as an intervention/catch up tool and to support EAL and SEN requirements
5. Another good choice is Espresso Education – Espresso Coding that teaches students to code and make their own apps to share with their friends and parents. This will help children develop skills for their future working life which so much of the National Curriculum singularly fails to do.
6. For secondary I am going for English and Media Centre’s Arctic Adventure which works on ipads and has authentic video material, images and blogs from the Catlin Arctic Survey.
7. For ICT Tools for Teaching and Learning I like the idea of IGGY ,an online educational and social network for gifted 13-18 year olds from across the world with content for maths, science, history, politics, creative writing and life skills, and a safe environment for students to exchange ideas, debate and learn.
8. It’s a pity FlashSticks won’t be at BETT because the product looks excellent. It combines low tech post-it notes, foreign language vocabulary and smartphones. The notes are colour coded to help with gender recall (blue notes for masculine words, pink notes for feminine words) and a Free App channel means users can wave their smartphone or tablet over any note to call up a quick pronunciation video.
9. Visual Education’s Wordwall lets teachers make easy learning activities for interactive whiteboards. Apparently you pick a template, type in your content and with a few clicks you’re done. Alternatively pinch some ideas from their online community.
10. Finally I am on the look out for good maths resources this year so I am hoping that Jumpido will do the trick. It is billed as: ‘an exciting series of educational games for primary school. It combines natural body exercises with engaging math problems to make learning a truly enjoyable experience.’

If your product is in the running for an award, good luck. If not, then just enjoy the entertainment. I am sure Jo Brand will be very good value.